Undercover: Horsing Around

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Words || Max Lewis

I try to dissociate myself from fandoms as much as possible. There’s been many a time the fans have spoiled something dear to my heart. In the same vein, I’m all about nostalgia for kids programming, but adults obsessed with kids programming they didn’t grow up with is a little strange to me. Enter the ‘Bronies’ – those who consider My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic a large enough part of their life they need a name for it. I don’t have a problem with it on the surface: after all, there’s nothing wrong with turning your brain off and watching something simple and wholesome. But I’ve seen enough plush pony toys with fleshlights sewn into them, and enough people with MLP related avatars spouting hate speech, to feel a little uncomfortable about the whole thing.

Then again, sometimes a few bad apples can spoil the bunch. Most Bronies seem like genuinely nice people who happen to be obsessed with a kids TV show – do they really deserve the hatred towards them? I wanted to answer this the only way I know how: by doing the ding dang thing. I was to walk a few days in the (virtual) shoes of a Brony, to see what they were all about.

To be properly invested I decided I needed to insert myself as much as I could into the universe of the ponies. Adopt a ‘ponysona’, if you will. I googled ‘MLP generator’ and went to the first site I found. With rainbow graphics that almost burned my retinas out, I was directed to chose my pony’s body type from two options: regular or slightly larger. After this were the eyes; I tried to pick the saddest and baggiest, since this was to be a reflection of myself. Next, I chose from five whole hair options one that most suited me, and was able to find a colour that closely matched the dark blonde of my own messy mop. With my visage complete the fun part was upon me: choosing the name. After a series of vigorous questions like “Twilight Sparkle is throwing a party at X” and having to fill in the blank from options like “The Beach”, “A Picnic” or “The Park” my new identity was born – ‘Summer Bloom.’ My final step was to choose a ‘cutie mark’ – a term used in-universe to refer to unique symbols on a pony. Naturally, I chose a bunch of crabs surrounded by love hearts right on my arse, because I’m a Cancer.

Bronies quite often feature ponies – their own or otherwise – as profile pictures on internet forums and the like. I decided to take this one step further and adopt my ponysona on Slack, the online chat app that the Grapeshot team uses. Changing my name to ‘Summer Bloom’ and my display picture to match, I wanted to see how my so called ‘team’ would deal with a Brony amongst them.

As if by fate, a member of our new design team joined the chat.

“NEIGHHHHH,” I typed. “WELCOME TO THE HERD!!!”

Nothing but silence followed. Stunned or disgusted silence, I’m unsure. But it was silence nonetheless, and each second that passed without a reply sent shame deeper into my heart. Further attempts were met with even heavier radio silence. This is what what it felt to be shunned by those you once called friends. “Fuck it,” I thought. “I’m going to go where people will actually appreciate me.”

Mlpforums.com is an internet forum dedicated to the realm of the ponies. After making my account – SUMM3RBL00M96 – I joined the herd, so to speak, and felt instantly at home. There were subtopics dedicated to roleplaying as ponies, discussing the show or just shooting the shit. There was even a specific place for me to introduce myself! With my comically off-centered avatar baring my likeness I took some time to craft a suitable introduction message.

“Hi everypony! I’m Summer Bloom! Thought I’d say Hi and introduce myself before I see what the fuss is about! It’d be great to make some new friends who share the same interests as me :)”

Before long a user – sorry, a PONY – named RikiFive replied, welcoming me to the herd with overwhelming warmth and an overuse of emojis. Within the next hour about 5 other users had replied, all with super wholesome and supportive messages welcoming me to the community. Suddenly, this wasn’t really funny anymore. The deeper I got, looking at discussions about episodes, text roleplays that spanned across years worth of posts, and people sharing their in-universe drawings or music, I just felt bad. These people are connecting through a show with a core message of friendship. Maybe they find it hard to make friends in real life, or are in a situation which prevents them from truly being themselves. Who the fuck am I to judge? What business is it of mine, really, what people get up to on the internet? There might be a few bad eggs who perform weird ejaculate experiments with their Twilight Sparkle figurines, but by and large the bronies are a positive group, who just happen to funnel this positivity through a show designed for kids. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Besides, there’s much worse ways to express your fandom! Like if a group of male Star Wars fans decided to remake the Last Jedi to make it fit their ancient, myopic and vomitous worldview of white male supremacy. That would just be stupid, right?

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